Just saw The Hunger Games. It is an excellent movie, true to the book in all the ways that matter! Go see it! It reminded me of all the things I loved about the book, now I need to reread the book or books, probably all of them while I am at it!
It seems that lately I like to blog after I have read two books rather than after each one. In this way I can connect two books that may or may not have anything in common. It is a nice challenge. Most recently I have read The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley and Hourglass by Myra McEntire.
The Orchid House was both engaging and disappointing at the same time. The story was a good old "family secrets," historical fiction, England, modern tragedy book. I like these types of stories when Kate Morton writes them. This story reminded me of her work. Julia is a concert pianist who has lost both her husband and son in a terrible car accident. When she visits the estate on which her grandparents worked when she was a child, she discovers it is to be sold. Visiting her grandmother she begins to unravel a mystery in which her family and the owners of Wharton Park, the Crawfords, are caught up. This storyline is mingled with that told to Julia by her grandmother Elsie about the days at the estate both immediately before and after World War II. The story has some surprises which keep it from being too formulaic however I say this having read the entire novel, the writing was appallingly bad. Stilted conversations, too much telling rather than showing, and just a lack of engaging detail. I stuck with it because the author was successful in making want to know what would happen. There is another detail I feel like I need to mention but this is GOING TO BE A SPOILER, so stop here and move to the next paragraph about the next book. Julia finds out eventually that her mother was not the daughter of Elsie and Bill (two very British, white people) at all, but instead the daughter of Harry Crawford and the Thai woman with whom he fell in love after the war. It is emphasized numerous times that Jasmine (who died many years before, when Julia was 11) looked strikingly like her mother, a Thai woman, yet at no point during or after her life has anyone questioned her parentage. This quite frankly is ridiculous. Even if she were described as having particularly Anglo features like her British father, which she was not, she is clearly NOT the child of Elsie and Bill. This is really the one plot contrivance that was just too far-fetched to be believed. Despite my forbearance because I enjoyed the plot, I will not be passing this book along to friends, or anyone else.
Next, I am glad to say I read the wonderfully written time-travel book, Hourglass. This is a YA novel combining romance, fantasy, adventure, and a pinch of teen angst. Emerson sees people from the past, and has had extensive psychological and psychiatric intervention to discover why. When Michael, who works for Hourglass, comes along he tells her these visions are simply ripples in time she is able to see because she can travel into the past. He sees similar ripples from the future. This means they are a matched pair able to travel together anywhere in time so long as someone provides a portal. Because Michael is devastatingly handsome and only a few years older than 17 year old Emerson angst and romance ensue. (This book reminded me a tiny bit of Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red, but not enough to feel like a copy cat.) Because there is to be a sequel, the novel ends rather abruptly with all sorts of unfinished business, this is of course an evil tactic on the part of authors and publishers to get me to run out to buy the next book, Timepiece, as soon as it is released on June 12th, but I am not eager, no not me.
I do not choose sappy books knowingly, perhaps subconsciously. However, I do tend to like books with happy endings (though I am pretty flexible in my definition of happy ending), which to me sometimes means sappy. I am not just rambling here, but leading up to discussing the two most recent books I have read.
The first is Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. I read everything Picoult writes and have only missed two of her early novels, which I will most likely read some day. I like all the books I have read, I do not like them equally well, but I do like them. This newest release falls near the top of the middle. What I most liked about this one is actually all the facts about real wolves. What I liked least is the daughter, Cara. Usually when I am not thrilled with a character it is because he/she is not realistic. Cara is supremely realistic from her desperate need to ignore the truth to her selfishness, she is 17, no doubt. I just did not find her to be a likable 17 year old. My other issue with this book is that I have read 16 of Picoult's 18 novels. They are meticulously researched, the characters are engaging, the dialogue is realistic, there are always surprises, yet somehow they are beginning to seem too much the same. There is a pattern, a similarity about them that is becoming disconcerting. This happened a few books ago and I keep reading, because I always like the books, I do not find them predictable, but yet I find them the same. I am not sure what I will do about it, and it does not sound like a real reading dilemma, but it is. Bottom line, this is a good book. If you have read and enjoyed Picoult in the past you will read and enjoy this one. If this will be your first, it is not a bad place to start, but you will not want to miss Nineteen Minutes, The Pact, or Second Glance, which are my favorites.
The book I finished just a few minutes before sitting down to compose this post is Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. This book begins with friendship and ends with love, but not in a predictable way. It is also about the end of love, death, and healing. It too is filled with realistic and likable characters. I really like Pen and her daughter Augusta as well as her mother, father, and brother. Cat I like less well, but that is as I think de los Santos intended. The story revolves around three friends: Pen, Will, and Cat who lost touch (though "lost" is a bit inaccurate as they really "left" touch, or "stopped" touch) a few years after they had been fast friends in college. Their ten year reunion brings all the memories and angst back to the forefront when Cat sends an unexpected e-mail to the other two. Despite feeling like it will be all about the friendship, the book explores the separate lives of the three, especially Pen, to illustrate why they both do and do not need each other. It was really well done and happy without sappy, and profound without preachiness. I highly recommend it. Also check out Love Walked In and Belong to Me by de los Santos.